When I heard about L C Wilkinson's book, All of Me, I was fascinated by her themes of celebrity and passion. She was kind enough to answer some questions on the thinking behind the book. I'm pleased to have her here today!
Actress Flick Burrow’s career is in the doldrums. Dumped by long-term boyfriend at the altar and nudging forty she escapes to Italy touring with a theatrical company.
Orlando Locatelli is a successful businessman. He’s rich, clever and drop-dead gorgeous.
When the two meet, the attraction is instant. But Orlando is 15 years Flick’s junior; he’s the controlling director’s son; his stepmother is possessive and destructive. He’s trouble and he’s determined to have her.
Sparks fly when a tour romance turns into something altogether more dangerous, threatening to reveal pasts, and desires, both lovers are keen to bury.
Me: I was drawn to this story partly because it picks up on a lot of themes I find fascinating and problematic about celebrities, particularly the role of appearance and the vulnerability that comes with being looked at all the time. What got you interested in celebrity?
LCW: In my 20s I worked as an actress and even did some – bottom of the range – modelling and though I didn’t make it anywhere near celebrity status I think, perhaps, it gave me a stronger than usual appreciation of the strain of a life in the public eye. At auditions you are constantly judged on your appearance – acting ability seems to have little to do with much of the casting process, certainly in the early stages – and in the daily business of doing your job you are watched constantly, of course. However, I’d say that most women are vulnerable to this and, it seems to me, increasingly so. We are all expected to match up to some mythical ideal, the images of celebrities plastered across the magazine covers, and it is impossible to attain because it’s an illusion. The camera lies all the time, especially since the advent of Photoshop and the like. Even the models and actresses don’t look like this in real life. And as a society we are obsessed with celebrity; you only have to look at the magazine shelves in WH Smith. It’s almost impossible to ignore.
Me: Are there particular figures or stories that inspired you as you created the world that Flick and Orlando inhabit?
LCW: For Flick: not really. She’s a soap opera star and I don’t watch soaps. I am a huge film fan though and I do tend to mentally cast the characters in my stories. I had a young Linda Fiorentino (as she appeared in The Last Seduction) in mind for Flick, though I’m sure readers will picture her differently. Orlando is so divine I couldn’t think of an actor to play him, though there are some perfume models that fit the bill! There are so many stories of people in the public eye being hounded; venerated or berated, that I couldn’t honestly say that I drew on any stories in particular.
Me: I can’t resist reading stories about celebrities, and at the same time am aware of how difficult it must be to live in a glass house. Did writing from Flick’s perspective affect how you feel about that issue or how you read celebrity news?
LCW: Oh, I find celebrity gossip irresistible too! I think – hope – that I am sensitive and generous when reading and commenting on the lives, loves, looks of those in the public eye. When I was younger I thought I’d like to be famous; I know now that I would loathe it.
So far I’ve focused on celebrities, but I think everyone has a public appearance and a different, often conflicting, inner reality. Do you think it’s possible to conduct a passionate love affair without dropping the facade?
LCW: Ah, good question. I think that you can have a passionate love affair without revealing the inner ‘you’, but it will be purely physical. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Great sex is great sex. Perhaps lust affair is a more appropriate description. But for truly deep emotional engagement you have to drop the mask and peel back the layers, and the sex is even better because the heart and soul are engaged then too. Or perhaps I’m a die-hard romantic…
Me: There’s a significant age difference between Flick and Orlando. If I were in Flick’s position, I’d be very afraid of my glamour inevitably slipping in front of a handsome younger man. Does she feel that way, or is she more confident about their attraction?
LCW: Flick is very aware of the age difference and what that means physically as well as mentally. Nudging forty and without any surgical enhancement, she feels that Orlando cannot find her mature body attractive. She takes some persuading! And because she is not a classic beauty, she feels threatened by the women (young and otherwise) he must encounter in his part-time, occasional role as a fashion model. She feels that she cannot possibly measure up to these goddess-like creatures. The irony is that Orlando loves Flick because of her so-called flaws, like the bump at the top of her nose – the result of a childhood accident.
Me: On your blog, you mention that you’re working on a sequel. Do you plan this to be a continuation of the romance between Flick and Orlando, or a story of new characters set in the same world?
LCW: At present I’m playing around with various ideas while writing another, completely new, romance. I have ideas to follow Flick and Orlando to New York, where Flick is working on a US TV series and where new pressures on their fledgling romance might take their toll. It would be interesting to see how they cope with them and how being catapulted into the A league changes Flick, if at all. In the States the pressure on Flick to remain ever-young (or at least look it) would intensify and how will Orlando react? And will Maria have her revenge? There are so many possibilities; it’s very exciting. I have also thought of bringing minor characters from All of Me centre stage – similar to Grace Marshall’s Executive Decisions trilogy. I’m interested in what happens to Johnnie and Emma for instance.
Me: I saw that you’ve also published a book in a different genre, under a different name. What made you want to write a romance? How did your previous experience help you or hinder you?
LCW: Alongside fiction and raising my boys I work as an editor, principally for Literary Consultancy, Cornerstones. Last year I edited a few erotic romances – they’ve been a not-so-guilty reading pleasure for ages – and I realised that I wanted to have a go at writing in the genre myself. A story that had been buzzing round my head for years had found its home and I had so much fun writing the book I didn’t think it could be any good. Alongside my other published novel I have written another two; one might remain in the virtual bottom drawer; the other is nudging towards a contract, so when I came to writing All of Me I understood structure, point of view, dramatic tension and other basics. But at the end of the day, it is characters that drive story, that make or break a book, regardless of genre, and by my fourth novel I knew how to build convincing, empathetic characters – I think! That horrid writer’s insecurity is always lurking…
Me: Thanks so much for your time, and I wish you all the best luck with All of Me!
LCW: Thank you so much for having me and for asking such great questions.
Mr Hot led me through to a brightly lit room, the light scorching my eyes after near darkness. He pulled up a wooden stool and gestured for me to sit. I did as I was instructed. Row upon row of bottles of oil, condiments, herbs and spices lined shelves that covered an entire wall. It was a store cupboard, and the strip lighting was harsh; every fine line, blemish and open pore would be visible. Inwardly, I cursed my lack of foundation once more. I felt exposed, stripped right down, and vulnerable. I shielded my eyes, allowing my hand to drop low enough to conceal most of my face.
‘Better here, fewer people. Can I get you a drink? Cup of tea?’ he said.
‘Something stronger might be better.’ I attempted to cover my embarrassment with humour. He did not laugh, or even smile. ‘Water would be great. Wouldn’t do to be seen drunk. Imagine what they’d make of that,’ I added quickly.
Through a gap in my fingers I watched him push open swing doors with considerable force and sashay out, revealing the bustle of a hectic lunchtime kitchen; he barked out an instruction in a language I couldn’t quite place. Italian probably, possibly Spanish. This was no ordinary waiter in more ways than one. He returned moments later.
Despite his blistering good looks, or maybe because of them, I wanted to get the hell out of there; I gulped down the water. ‘Thank you. Can you show me the other way out now please?’
‘It’s not too soon?’
‘I have to be somewhere.’
At the exit, he paused and looked into my eyes, the hazel fading to black as his pupils dilated. He ran his tongue over those sensual lips. I couldn’t breathe and for a moment I thought I might pass out. The attraction I’d felt was mutual; he was devouring me with his gaze; his desire was palpable. Had it been a movie, or an episode of the cheap drama I’d been in, we’d have thrown ourselves at each other, kissed passionately, before being interrupted by an angry chef brandishing a meat knife. I coughed; it broke the spell.
He leant forward to grab the door handle, the bouquet of his aftershave mingling with a distinct, very masculine aroma. I was soooo tempted, but this was real life, and my personal life was enough of a mess. He opened the door, leant forward to look up and down the street before turning back to me and nodding that it was clear. Neither of us knew what to say. I had no idea if he knew, understood, or even cared why the press were hounding me, and I wasn’t inclined to explain.
I held out my hand. ‘Thank you. You saved my life.’
He took my hand, but rather than shaking it, as I had intended, he lifted it to his mouth and kissed the back. A charge raced up my arm, exploding in my mouth and groin. ‘It was nothing. Anyone would have done the same.’
‘Thanks anyway,’ I gasped. I had to get out of there, and quick. My internal red light was flashing: danger, danger, danger.
I stepped into the street and, unsure which direction to take, turned right and walked; the skin on my hand still thrumming from the touch of his lips. I wanted to look back, and tried desperately to resist the urge. After a few metres, I gave up and turned my head. There was no sign of him.
All of Me is published by Xcite in paperback and e-book formats. You can buy the book here and here.
To find out more about L. C. visit her site – www.lcwilkinson.com – for news and freebies. Or follow her on Twitter: @ScorpioScribble